The New Orleans Pelicans (9-8) will host the San Antonio Spurs (11-6) on Wednesday evening, hoping to break a streak of ineptitude similar to the one Alvin Gentry had against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Since the present head coach took over for Monty Williams, the Pelicans have bested the Spurs just twice in eight games.
Come every season for several years now, predictions have been made speculating the time is ripe for San Antonio to take a step back, yet each completed campaign goes on to prove the naysayers wrong. Many assumed opportunity was at hand with Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps tendinopathy) and Tony Parker (torn quadriceps tendon) unavailable to start the 2017-18 season, but the Spurs haven’t missed a beat without either highly regarded starter. They have currently won seven of their last nine contests and sit third in the Western Conference standings.
San Antonio has been led by a revitalized LaMarcus Aldridge (22.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG), but any given night, a few role players are bound to stand out. In Monday’s win over the Atlanta Hawks, Kyle Anderson posted a career-high 10 assists to go along with 13 points. In their come-from-behind win over the Thunder, Danny Green was on fire from three-point territory. And don’t forget, the Spurs have excellent veterans that are dependable most nights: Patty Mills, Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol and, a favorite of many, Manu Ginobili.
Just pencil them in, the Silver and Black of the NBA are going to remain a force to be reckoned with for as long as Gregg Popovich continues to pace the sidelines. Honestly, it’s not even close, he’s far and way the most highly respected head coach in the league. In addition to all of his vast basketball-oriented knowledge, his opinions on other subject matter are usually worth a listen. And then there’s his entertaining theatrics. Did you catch his latest Oscar-worthy performance?
Here’s to hoping Pop gets miffed about something inside the Smoothie King Center — it could mean things are going New Orleans way.
Three Keys to Victory
Gobble up all the rebounds. The Spurs are 8-3 when they win the rebounding battle, 3-3 when they don’t. This Spurs team has not exhibited the shooting accuracies like previous roster editions (yet?) so they’ve relied more heavily than usual in chasing second chance points while limiting opponents to one shot. Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and company must give impassioned chase to all rebounding chances.
Find a way to exploit Spurs defense somewhere for easy points. With Leonard and Parker out to start the season, San Antonio has relied on stopping teams and they’ve been quite successful at doing so as evidenced by an opponent average of 98.2 points per game (3rd). As you’d expect, they’re good at limiting easy chances, like free throws (1st), second chance points (3rd) and points coming from three-point attempts (4th). They’re also in the top half of the league in being stingy with doling out fast break points and points off turnovers.
Run off all Spurs guards from favorite spots. The Spurs don’t employ Morey-ball, but what they do well is generate shot attempts from areas on the floor they prefer. If New Orleans can suffocate their guards — Ginobili, Mills, Green and Dejounte Murray, there’s a great chance they’ll be in position to notch their second win of the week.
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs San Antonio Spurs
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: November 22, 2017, 7:00 PM Central
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM